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Tuesday, November 23, 1999
Vajpayee inducts four
NEW DELHI, Nov 22 The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today inducted Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Mr Rajnath Singh, Dr C.P. Thakur as Cabinet Ministers and Mr Arun Shourie as a Minister of State in the first-ever expansion and reshuffle of his month-old Council of Ministers.
Two new ministries, Information and Technology and Works and Estate, have been created with the former going to Mr Pramod Mahajan and the latter to Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
With the exception of Mr Dhindsa, all three who were inducted into the Union Council of Ministers today are from the BJP.
Mr Rajnath Singh, the UP state BJP chief, has been given the portfolio of Surface Transport with Mr Nitish Kumar, being shifted to the Agriculture.
Dr C.P. Thakur, a bhumihar from Bihar, has been made the Minister for Water Resources, a charge that was held by Mr Mahajan till now in addition to being the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. Mr Mahajan continues to hold the charge of Parliamentary Affairs.
Mr Arun Shourie, as Minister of State will hold the charge of Planning, Statistics, Programme Implementation, and Department of Administrative Reforms, Public Grievances and Pensions in the Ministry of Personnel.
The new minister were administered the oath of office and secrecy by the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan at a brief ceremony here this evening in the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The function was attended by the Prime Minister and members of his Council of Ministers, former Prime Minister, Mr Inder Kumar Gujral, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, and the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Dr Najma Heptulla among others. The Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Sonia Gandhi was however, not present.
Mr Dhindsa, currently Secretary General of the SAD was a Minister in Punjab and also associated with a number of sports bodies in the country.
Dr Thakur, a BJP MP from Patna, has been an emeritus professor of Medicine in Patna Medical College and a leading physician while Mr Rajnath Singh is a Rajput and was earlier a Minister of Education in Uttar Pradesh.
Mr Shourie has been an Editor of a prominent English daily and at present is a BJP Rajya Sabha member. With the induction and creation of two new ministries, the Prime Minister also effected a reshuffle of portfolios.
Among the Cabinet Ministers, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister for Human Resource Development and Science and Technology has been given the additional charge of Ocean Development.
The Urban Development Minister, Mr Jagmohan, has been compensated for slicing his ministry by giving him Programme Implementation. The Works and Estate Ministry has been carved out of the Urban Development.
Dr Satya Narain Jatiya, who held the portfolio of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation, has been given Labour, a charge he held in the previous Vajpayee Cabinet.
Ms Vasundhara Raje, a Minister of State with independent charge having Small-Scale Industries will also continue to assist the Prime Minister in handling Ministry of Personnel. Earlier, she also had Public Grievances and Pension which have now gone to Mr Shourie.
Among the portfolios of Ministers of State that have been reshuffled, Mr Bangaru Laxman has been shifted to the Railways. He earlier held charge as Planning and Programme Implementation which has now been given to Mr Shourie.
Mr Bachi Singh Rawat, who got into a controversy for making public statements on sensitive defence matters, has been shifted from Defence to Science and Technology.
Mr Santosh Gangwar has been taken off from Science and Technology and given Petroleum, a charge he held in the previous Vajpayee Council of Ministers and additional charge of Parliamentary Affairs.
Mr Faggan Singh Kulaste who was given the portfolio of Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, has now been given Tribal Affairs with Mr O Rajagopal, Minister for Law, Justice and Company Affairs getting additional charge, of Parliamentary Affairs which was held by Mr Shriram Chauhan who has now been shifted to Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution.
With todays expansion, the strength of the Union Council of Ministers goes up to 73 with the Prime Minister telling correspondents that his team was nearly complete.
The present team has 28 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with independent charge and 38 Ministers of State.
The Lok Shakti President and former Commerce Minister, Mr Ramakrishna Hegde, who was being expected in media circles to be inducted into the Union Council of Ministers, has declined to comment on today's Cabinet expansion.
Mr Hegde and his Lok Shakti which is yet to formally merge with the Janata Dal (United) has had two meetings with the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, recently. He was also rumoured to be offered the chairmanship of the Indo-French Business Forum, which entails a Cabinet level appointment.
The Lok Shakti and Mr Hegde had blamed the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, the leader of the JD (U), for keeping him out of the Cabinet when it was formed after the Lok Sabha elections, J.D. (U) President Sharad Yadav, who has held several rounds of consultations with the Prime Minister, Mr Hegde and Mr Fernandes, had stated that the differences would be resolved at a meeting of the individuals concerned. But the meeting among Mr Yadav, Mr Fernandes and Mr Hegde had not taken place.
PTI adds: Lok Shakti leader Ramakrishna Hegde, who failed to find a berth in the Union Cabinet expansion today, said there was no question of any disappointment as he was not expecting anything.
"I am not disappointed because disappointment comes only when you desire for something," Mr Hegde told reporters.
There was speculation that Mr Hegde, who was denied a ministerial berth when the Vajpayee government assumed the office last month, could be inducted in todays expansion to provide greater stability to the coalition government.
Asked to comment on the merger of his party with the Janata Dal (United), he said that his partys national executive meeting on November 29 would take a decision.
Mr Hegde said the issue of his inclusion in the Union Cabinet did not come up when he met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee recently.
Asked about his future plans, the Lok Shakti President said he was planning a holiday.
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